I’ve been thinking about reading Bad Feminist for a while, and still haven’t picked it up, but it’s been a pretty memoir heavy year in my reading, so when I was able to get Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body out of the library, I went for it, and slightly before that, when Hunger was checked out, I got Difficult Women (also by Roxane Gay but a collection of short stories) out of the library as well.

These books go together kind of perfectly to read around the same time because it a lot of ways, the short stories in Difficult Women are telling the same story that Gay is telling in Hunger.  As a person who thinks about writing fiction, but has never put much/any time into doing so or becoming better at writing fiction, it was interesting to me to really see how the events of her actual life had permeated the fictional stories she wrote.  Most obviously, many of the short stories are set in places where she lived.  But also, as she reveals in Hunger, she was the victim of a brutal gang rape at a young age, she spent a long time feeling very broken because of it, and basically letting people hurt her and break her more because she thought maybe being more broken would make it better or she thought, she just didn’t deserve to be treated better.  Pretty much all the women in Difficult Women are broken either by some particular act of sexual violence they experienced, or just by the general terribleness of their day-to-day lives.  I like a happy ending, so I preferred the stories where there is some redemption for these women, where they are treated with kindness and seem to think that they could eventually come to a place of lesser brokenness.

Hunger is obviously also about weight and eating and food.  I think I’m in a pretty common place reading this book because I identified with some of it, and some of it made me feel like an asshole.  I will say that as someone who once struggled with food and eating and numbers on the scale in a really unhealthy way, if you know that that struggle is inside you, you may not want to read this book. Because as much as Gay is telling the horrible truth about dangerous weight loss and bulimia, I could definitely see this book being somewhat triggering.  It was and it wasn’t for me, as I was reading it, at some points I was filled with the desire to get up and run and run and run, but I wasn’t filled with the desire to secretly not eat food and count calories, but I think that’s because I’ve finally realized that you can fucking kill yourself doing that, and I don’t want to be dead.  So yeah… if you have or have had a serious body image problem, eating disorder, I’m sure you will identify with a lot of this book, but maybe too much.

I felt like an asshole while I read this book because I have never been objectively fat.  I feel weird writing that, and there are certainly people who are skinnier and fitter than me, but there’s a lot in this book I didn’t identify with because I’ve never had to move in this world as a fat person.  I have judged myself harshly, but I have not been judged harshly by others in the way that Gay has been.  I’ve never worried a chair wouldn’t hold me, I’ve never worried about arm rests digging into me, I’ve never bought two seats on an airplane.  I have definitely judged others, and I’ve said careless things to people I love because it didn’t occur to me how privileged I was to not move in the world this way. I’m hoping that having read this book will make me less prone to doing that in the future.

Initially, I was going to say if you’re only going to read one of these books, read Difficult Women, but I think having thought more about Hunger, I would say, maybe you should read both.  Difficult Women, as fiction, is perhaps more enthralling, despite being very short, I really enjoyed the stories of many of the women.  But Hunger is raw and important.  And, for a memoir, actually a pretty quick read.

Currently reading: The Opposite of Loneliness and making a trip to the library for more fiction before this all gets too depressing….  Still going to read Bad Feminist someday…